DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CITIZEN/SOLDIER/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media to discuss Sam Bass, team ownership, the All-Star format, running with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, and more. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A ...
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CITIZEN/SOLDIER/AMP ENERGY IMPALA SS met with media to discuss Sam Bass, team ownership, the All-Star format, running with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, and more.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO WIN THE ALL-STAR? "I've got one (win). So I don't know how to answer that question. You should maybe ask someone who hasn't won it."
HOW DID YOU WIN IT? WERE YOU GOING FOR BROKE AND DOING EVERYTHING YOU NEEDED TO DO TO WIN IT? "You know when you've got the car to win, early in the night. But if you ain't got the car to win, you've just got to do the best you can. You don't go for broke anymore. But if you know in the first session that you've got a chance, you go for broke after that. But if you're struggling, you just can't wait to get it over with and go home."
HOW EXCITING IS IT TO BE IN THE ALL-STAR? "It's good to be in it. And I'm glad I'm in. And there is only one guy who is going to win and you've just got to hope you can show up and you're really on it and that you've really got a good car when you come off the trailer."
DO YOU PAY ATTENTION TO ALL THE RULES CHANGES AND FORMAT CHANGES OVER THE YEARS, STRATEGY-WISE? "Not strategy-wise. I'm not very good at making strategy, but I don't like the way it is. I hate the way it is. I like the last 10-lap shootout deal. How awesome was that? Does everybody not feel that way?"
ON NOT HAVING THE INVERSION AND GUYS SANDBAGGING "Inversion is never fun (laughs) because you don't know, you think all right, all this work I'm doing in the first couple of segments is all for what, you know. But they need to go back to their original format, the '87 format. That was the best. It ain't that fun running 25 laps. You've got 20 cars on the track. Odds of having a caution are a lot less than when you have a full field. And you know in the first 15 laps that the race is won unless something falls off of somebody's car and the caution comes out. But 10 laps, man that was awesome. They need to do that and quit changing it."
HOW GOOD IS YOU CAR? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE? "We're all right. We're not bad, bad, and terrible so I think we've still got a pretty good chance. It's hard to tell right now because it's so different than what it will be like tomorrow night. I want my car to be free right now, which means I'll run slower than I could probably make it run if we made it run faster, but that's not going to be the way to go. It will be too tight at night. So I've got to get it free and a little bit slower. But it's hard to explain."
WHAT DOES SAM BASS MEAN TO YOU AND WHAT HAS HE DONE FOR THE SPORT? "He's the main guy when it comes to illustrations and capturing a moment with his art and the way he draws. He's always been that guy for this sport and he probably always will be. I don't see anybody coming in here and unseating him. His prints are the most popular and the most well done and appreciated and accepted by the fans. He's just sort of had that stage from the very beginning. There are a lot of other guys out there that I've worked with before and worked with today that as talented or more talented and Sam might agree. But he grabbed the market and the demographic when it was there and kind of lucked into it, I guess. But he's always been constant. He's a great guy. Aside from him just carrying this sport in his little area, he's the nicest guy you'd every meet. He'll do anything for you and he's done a lot of cool stuff for me and I really appreciate it."
AS AN OWNER IN JR MOTORSPORTS, ARE YOU PATIENT OR IMPATIENT IN THAT ROLE? "I'm very impatient."
HOW IS IT TO DEAL WITH ON THAT SIDE? "The problem I run into with Brad Keselowski is that he watches and sees how I act and thinks that's how he can act. But I've earned the ability or the right to be a little bit of jerk every once in a while and the thinks he can come in right off the bat and be one. And so I have to tell him, man, you can't be like that you know, you got to earn it. People ain't going to like you just coming in, seven months into the deal, and you're complaining all the time. You've got to suck it up for a little while. It's no fun. But after about four or five years, you can start kind of being more demanding and calling your shots a whole lot more and saying 'no' a whole lot more often. But he wants a PR person that'll carry his uniform around for him and things like that right now, and he's got to wait a couple of years before he gets that. I tell him to be patient. And I tell him too that qualifying is overrated. So hopefully he'll start listening to that."
HOW FRUSTRATED ARE YOU THAT YOU HAVEN'T GOTTEN A WIN THIS SEASON? "I'm not frustrated. I'm having a good time and making a good living. I'm finishing good and running good and being competitive. It ain't good enough. I want to win races. But I have a deal because if I say man, I'm happy, and tell you the truth, you're (media) going to say I don't have enough drive and determination to go for wins and I don't run hard enough if I tell you the truth.
"So I've got to tell you every once in a while you know, man, I really want a couple of wins. They really mean a lot. That's so you guys won't bury me. I'm having a great time right now. I've got great cars. I've got way more confidence in my team and our ability to show up with cars that are in the ballpark and running good all weekend. That's a good feeling. Running in the top five, and being able to do what I feel like I should be able to do, and I'm able to perform like I feel like I should perform, Kyle (Busch) and those guys have a great handle on their cars. He's very talented and they're winning races. The NO. 99 seem to have gotten a little of their magic. The NO. 99 is the same way. Once we figure out what that little extra bit is, we'll be able to compete for those wins. But we'll take the top fives if they keep coming."
HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BUILDER IS IT THAT YOU'VE BEEN RUNNING EQUAL TO OR BETTER THAN JIMMIE JOHNSON AND JEFF GORDON AND YOU'RE IN THE SAME STUFF EVERY WEEKEND. "Yeah. Those guys feel like they aren't where they need to be, and they've got a little bit more to gain, and we feel the same way. But it feels good to be able to run well and get their respect and it really goes a long weigh toward the relationship as teammates to be able to get that respect as soon as you can. And I'm just trying to be complimentary toward the team and the cars and what they're providing me. Because you know you hear them in their speeches and their interviews at the beginning of the year and they're like hey, we think Dale Jr. is good. We're going to provide him with (good equipment), and you want to be complimentary toward that that they provided me with this opportunity. Hopefully I'll be able to impress everybody enough to keep the job for a while."
YOU REALLY AGONIZED OVER MAKING THE MOVE TO HMS LAST YEAR. NOW THAT YOU'RE THERE, DO YOU WONDER WHY YOU WORRIED THAT MUCH AND THAT THIS WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO? "No. I don't look back and go wow, you know, I shouldn't have worried so much or shouldn't have made it so hard on myself. But maybe that's the way I'll think in five years, but I still it's just recently happened. And still, I'm still adjusting to the new and trying to be more comfortable leaving the old. I see (Tony) Gibson walk through the garage and I like the guy. And I enjoyed working with him. And I hate that I ain't working with him anymore. So those things happen. So I guess I miss the team and I miss the camaraderie we had. They were a great bunch of guys over there on the No. 8 and the No. 1 even. But I'm really enjoying where I'm at and what I'm doing and how good we're doing. Rick (Hendrick) is an awesome boss. I couldn't be happier about being in the program I'm in. We'll build the relationships with those guys and really enjoy that. We've got a good team and a good opportunity to become great friends and really enjoy racing together."
BACK TO THE OWNERSHIP THING, WHEN YOU'RE OUT THERE RACING WITH BRAD KESELOWSKI, ARE THERE THINGS THAT GO THROUGH YOUR MIND AND ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT HIM OR ABOUT THE RACE? "Well, I get mad when he messes up and I see him in a wreck or something. But normally I just hope he's doing what he's supposed to be doing and running good and having a good night. But his night doesn't go right or something happens to the car, it's sort of bums you out a little bit and it's hard to revert back to concentrating on what you're trying to do with your car."
WHAT'S THE ALLURE OF OWNERSHIP FOR A DRIVER? WHY DO YOU WANT TO DO IT? "You tell me (laughs). I don't know."
IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU'LL MOVE UP TO THE CUP LEVEL WITH THAT TEAM ANYTIME? "I used to say no way, no way. But it's almost as expensive to run in the Nationwide Series. And their going to bring a CoT in and we won't be able to race in the Nationwide Series with the CoT probably. That'll just be too expensive to switch all that over."
WOULD YOU DO IT AS EARLY AS NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, maybe. If the right opportunity comes along with the right sponsorship and driver, we'd love to do it. And it would cost the same amount of money to do that, as it is to run the Nationwide Series. It's harder to get sponsorships. And the CoT program is going to be too expensive for me to justify creating a whole new program with CoT stuff, so I'd just as soon go into the Cup Series or get out of the Nationwide Series altogether."
COULD YOU GET MARTIN TRUEX JR. IN THAT CAR? "No. Why would he want to come drive for me? He's in good stuff now and he's going to have great opportunities from other people. And I would never do that to him (laughter). For the first year coming out of the box, man we'll struggle like hell. Come on, man. He's going to have deals offered to him by these great companies around here and from DEI. I'll be at the bottom of that list, right there with Haas and a couple of other people (laughter). I don't know with Tony (Stewart) if he goes over there (Haas), he might be able to talk Martin into it. But I don't know man. I mean no way would I even do that to Martin, even if he wanted to."
AT TALLADEGA, YOU SEEMED RELUCTANT TO WORK WITH DAVID RAGAN. LAST WEEK AT DARLINGTON, YOU APPEARED TO CONGRATULATE HIM ON HIS GOOD RUN. IS HE COMING ALONG AND HAS HE IMPROVED SINCE TALLADEGA? "Well, now he drives a Ford and I drive a Chevy. We don't tend to work with Ford too often. So, nothing personal against David. I think he's a fine driver and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He cuts you breaks and races you hard. He's got a nearly perfect amount of determination and will, yet he doesn't really put himself or yourself in a compromising situation out on the race track. And he just gets better at that. When he first came in he had a lot of crashes and stuff, but who didn't. Jeff Gordon and them guys wracked up 24 front rear clips in his first season. I've tore up a lot of stuff. That just happens. But he's really coming into his own. I was surprised. I didn't know whether he would evolve into the driver he is today, but he's done a great job."
-credit: gm racing